Auckland's longstanding Santa has overwhelming backing after being ditched ahead of tomorrow's Christmas parade.
Neville Baker, the man behind on the beard on the main float in the Farmers Santa Parade for the past five years, was fired for saying he would not hire women to play Father Christmas.
A Herald online poll has found nearly 90 per cent of people believe the My Santa director should not have been fired from the annual Christmas parade that attracts hundreds of thousands of children and families.
Hundreds of people have commented on the Herald Facebook page, most of whom agree with Baker's comments in last week Herald on Sunday that he would not hire women to play Father Christmas.
Today, chairman of the Children's Christmas Parade Trust Michael Barnett, said Baker's My Santa agency had said "you can't have a Santa with boobs" and the agency talked about a support crew in little skirts and tops.
"It was a statement that did not sound like the values of a family parade. We chose to use a different agency. Santa is alive and well," Barnett said.
Baker last weekend told the Herald on Sunday he does not cast any female applicants for the role of Santa.
"They apply, and you say, 'have you misread the ad?' Putting politically correct things to one side, there's a certain character people expect to find when they come to meet Santa.
"We employ Santa's Little Helpers, and they wear a little skirt and top ... but I wouldn't put a guy in a skirt and top - right?"
Baker said kids "weren't so silly" today, saying many questioned whether his Santas were the real deal.
"That's something we already have to contend with, let alone kids saying 'Santa's got boobs, mum'. I couldn't place one with one of my clients, they would think I'm stark raving mad," Baker said last weekend.
In the wake of Neville's comments, parade organisers announced they would no longer employ its Santa through the My Santa company.
"We are distancing ourselves from this company. We found his comments to be inappropriate and unnecessary and will be not using their services for the parade," Barnett said.
Howick Local Board chairman David Collings was one of thousands of Kiwis who have expressed their opposition to online, describing it as "ridiculous".
"I don't think his comments meant any harm. Cripes I would have loved as a kid a Santa with boobies, just like mummy. Boobies are very important when you're a young child, they provide comfort. I to this day still remember that comfort," Collings wrote on his Facebook page.
"The worst thing was feeling something in Santa's pocket when you sat on his knee. How's that for political correctness? Haha Merry Christmas everyone."
Christchurch man Steve Batey urged people to complain to organisers about the controversial sacking.
"Santa has been sacked and we need to take action now - and let's top this PC BS in New Zealand right now," he said in an email to the Herald.
"Let's start the 'Get Santa reinstated' movement."
Last night, Baker said he had not heard from parade organisers and insisted he would turn up as usual.
"I'm not aware to any change in my arrangement. It's news to me I've got no communication of that," Baker said.
"I will be attending the parade on Sunday."
Pressed on whether he would be attending the parade as Farmers Santa, Baker replied: "Why else would I go to a parade? I'm not a kid."
Farmers has been sponsoring the parade since 1934 as a gift to the children of Auckland.
An earlier version of this story indicated that Farmers dropped its longstanding Santa for its Christmas parade. This was incorrect. Farmers is the naming rights sponsor of the parade. Employment decisions are made by the Auckland Children's Christmas Parade Trust. We apologise to Farmers for the error.